Jeannie Ray-Timoney
Jeannie Ray-Timoney

During National Catholic Schools Week, students, families and staff have the great joy of celebrating Catholic schools here in the Archdiocese of Portland and across the country. Often, the question is raised, “Why choose Catholic schools?” Thoughtful reflection and a commitment to a hopeful future for our world starts the conversation.

Catholic schools see every student as a unique gift made in God’s image and deserving of love and respect. Catholic schools honor the student, striving to bring out the best in each one. Catholic schools educate the whole child in a faith-filled environment, assisting each child to live the life God intended for him or her.

Educators know that knowledge is not values-neutral. “Education is not a neutral enterprise. Schools instruct children, whether explicitly or implicitly, about meaning, purpose, and the good life,” Ashley Rogers Berner of Johns Hopkins University wrote in 2019. Catholic schools educate students in a Christ-centered environment to live virtuous lives to serve God and to serve their neighbor.

There is a culture of caring within Catholic schools, where students develop a moral compass in the light of faith to guide them with life choices. Catholic educators know that each child has free will, thus the culture of the Catholic school nurtures students through formation and assists in their transformation into individuals who live lives grounded in the teachings of Christ.

The Catholic school sees the parents as the child’s first teacher and partners in the ongoing education and formation of each child. Parents and caregivers are encouraged and expected to participate in the education of their children. Education is not an isolated activity, but a shared endeavor by the family and school community.

The partnership between families and Catholic educators is a gift to society and the church.

• Graduates of Catholic high schools are more likely to vote.

• Catholic schools save taxpayers more than $24 billion annually.

• Catholic school graduates enjoy higher earning potential than public school graduates.

• Catholic school graduates are more civically engaged, more tolerant of diverse views and more committed to service as adults.

• Catholic school students are more likely to pray daily, attend church more often, retain a Catholic identity as an adult and donate more to the church.

• Currently, six of the nine Supreme Court justices went to Catholic school.

A hallmark of Catholic schools is excellent academic programming. Catholic schools have long outperformed their public counterparts on standardized tests and continue to develop innovative pedagogy to prepare students for the future. Catholic schools form students who think critically, helping them for the future work world, but most importantly helping them think through choices that they will make in a highly secularized world as they mature and become adults.

Finally, Catholic schools remain the most important tool for evangelization. “Catholic schools afford the fullest and best opportunity to realize the fourfold purpose of Christian education, namely, to provide an atmosphere in which the Gospel message is proclaimed, community in Christ is experienced, service to our sisters and brothers is the norm, and thanksgiving and worship of our God is cultivated,” the U.S. bishops wrote in 2005.

The Archdiocese of Portland’s Department of Catholic Schools partners with all of our Catholic schools in fulfilling the mission of the church and promoting hope for a positive future.

(Data given in the listing above is drawn from the following sources: Cohen & Chafee, 2012; McDonald & Schultz, 2013; Neal, 1997, page 108; Owyang and Vermann, 2012, page 4; Campbell, 2001; and Sander, 2001, page 9)

Ray-Timoney is superintendent of Portland archdiocesan schools.